“Farms Galore”: The Story of the Township of Ocean's Rural Past mini-exhibit
From its earliest settlements, Ocean Township—like most of Monmouth County—was farmland. Our founding families—the Potters, Drummonds, Whites, Tuckers, land that today is covered with homes, apartments, offices, and shopping centers.
The mini-exhibit tells the story of our rural beginnings and traces the forces that transformed the Township from a farming community to a modern, high-density (2,497 people per square mile) suburb.
Wayside stayed rural
The population of the 11+ square miles that make up today’s Ocean Township increased at a slow, steady pace though the first half of the 20th century. Oakhurst grew to accommodate the engineers working at Deal Test Site (Joe Palaia Park) in the 1920s and 30s. Wanamassa grew, post WWII, as returning GIs moved into developments along Sunset Ave. All this time, Wayside remained farmland.
Through the 1950s, Middlebrook Farm spread west from Rte. 35 to Poplar Road. Prize-winning Jersey cows grazed where Middlebrook stores stand today. The Dangler family raised dairy cows on the Long Lane Farm (now site of the Intermediate School) and delivered milk to area homes. Families, including the Bownes, Osborns, Whites, and dozens more, owned and worked farms in Wayside.
A combination of forces eventually brought change to Wayside, too. A new generation unwilling to stay on the farm. Rising property taxes. And offers too-good-to-refuse from eager developers. Middlebrook, Continental, Twinbrook, and West Park apartments went up. Neighborhoods of upscale homes took over farmland. In the 30 years between 1950 and 1980, the population of the township nearly tripled (6,735 to 18,643).
The Permanent Exhibits in the Our Town Gallery
The Pre-Colonial Era
This area of New Jersey was originally occupied by the Lenni-Lenape tribe (also known as the Delaware to Europeans) a part of the Algonquin nation. The Lenni-Lenape traveled with the seasons, making full use of the area resources. During the spring they planted gardens around their permanent settlements. In the summer, they went “down the shore” to catch oysters and clams and stay cool. In the fall, they would move back to their village and harvest their crops. In the winter, they hunted deer and other animals.
Some of the other tribes scorned them for their peaceful ways. The Iroquois called them "The Old Women." They frequently were the intermediaries in resolving problems within the nation.
The central area of New Jersey was occupied by the Unami (“the people down the river”) sub-tribe.
See History of the Township of Ocean
Wanamassa is the area of the Township of Ocean in the south-east corner of the Township, along the area of Deal Lake. It is made up of land originally sold to Gavin Drummond by the local chiefs of the Lenni-Lenape tribe. According to local legend, Chiefs Wanamassa, Wallammassekaman and Waywinotunce sold the land for practically nothing because Drummond was married to the Lenape princess, Nissima (daughter of Wanamassa). The three chiefs signing the deed which indicated that Drummond purchased the land for one gun, five coats, one kettle, and two pounds of gun powder.
As the City of Asbury Park began developing, the opposite shore of Deal Lake was being developed as larger homes and estates, with easy access to Asbury Park. Eventually, as bridges over Deal Lake were erected, Wanamassa became a “bedroom” community of Asbury Park, with many people working in Asbury Park, or taking the train from Asbury Park, north to work in places such as Newark or New York.
See Historic Wanamassa
Oakhurst is the area of the Township of Ocean in the north-east corner of the Township, bordering Deal, Elberon (a section of the City of Long Branch) and West Long Branch. It was originally formed as the “business district” of the area, around the Brinley Grist Mill, that once sat on Whalepond Brook, on the border that today is between the Township of Ocean and West Long Branch.
During the late 1800's, mansion houses were built in the areas that today border Deal and Elberon, to enjoy this fine seaside area of the Jersey Shore. Many of these fine older homes still exist.
See Historic Oakhurst
Wayside is the area of the Township of Ocean in the western portion of the Township. Cold Indian Springs, located in the sand hills of Wayside, was the encampment of the Lenni-Lenape tribe when they came to the Shore in the summer.
From the colonial era onward, Wayside was a farming community, and was also the location of a stage coach stop for travelers riding between the ports in the northern part of the County (Oceanport today) and the port at Manasquan, as well as the iron foundry at Allaire.
Wayside remained a rural farming community until the 1960's when development began turning the many farms into apartment and residential communities, found there today.
See Historic Wayside
Deal Test Site
An area of the town, once part of the Woolley farm, was purchased by Western Electric (later Bell Laboratories, and then Lucent Technologies) as a research and development site. Later the property was sold to the United States Army, for use in developing communications technology.
See Deal Test Site